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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Hundreds of caregivers at Keck Medical Center of USC launched a labor strike Wednesday to protest what their union calls conditions that “compromise patient care” and management plans to impose a one-year wage freeze.
The job action at the former USC University Hospital began at 6 a.m., when the strikers, many in scrubs or lab coats, started marching with picket signs.
National Union of Healthcare spokesman Leighton Woodhouse said the picketing is scheduled to end at 6 p.m.
The strikers include a wide range of workers, including respiratory care practitioners, radiology technologists, surgical technicians, housekeepers and others, the union said.
Among the grievances listed by the union: the hospital is “dangerously short-staffed” and could be putting patients at risk.
“We are not able to provide quality care because of the short-staffing,” said respiratory therapist Allen Revago. “Instead of spending our time giving good care, what the patient needs, we’re taken out from that particular care because we have to go check on other patients.”
The union also complained that management has proposed a one-year freeze on hospital workers even though USC holds a $2.9 billion endowment and the hospital, according to the statement, generated $3 million in profits in the last quarter.
“While we are unable to discuss the specifics of our proposal publicly, we can say that our NUHW employees are among the highest-paid in the region,” said hospital spokesman Mitch Treem.
A hearing on the union’s complaints has been set for Oct. 24.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)